I had an extraordinary childhood.
I was born in Germany and then spent my childhood years in Kenya, East Africa. My father was a theologian and a professor and was teaching at a college in a tiny village called Limuru, 22 miles outside of Nairobi. I was there for five years from the age of 5-10 and I remember every moment of it. It was an amazing and exciting time to be in Kenya in the early 60’s, right after Kenya had won its independence from the British. The sense of optimism and hopefulness was palpable. There were days of festivities with roasted suckling pigs and dancing that went on all night.
We lived a mile away from a very large traditional mud and straw hut village where I used to go sometimes and play with the children . I went to a multi-racial school that was begun by friends of my parents whose children were not allowed into the English schools because their father was of Indian descent. The playground was a vast field where we were given free reign. I remember making up plays and dance sequences out on those fields with my friends during recess, using branches and leaves for costumes. In the rainy season the dirt roads were quite difficult to navigate. I remember our little VW bug got stuck a number of times in the mud. On the way to school we would sing songs from “The Sound of Music” (the first film I ever saw) at the top of our lungs. Sometimes we would stop by the side of the road and get sugar cane sticks that we would chew on all the way into town.
Kenya is on the equator so the weather was beautiful and warm most of the year. The light is sharp and clear and the colors bright and defined.
I spent a lot of time outside under the huge African sky. Anyone who has been to Africa is struck by the presence of the land. It is primal, it is vast, it has a palpable and extraordinary presence. A couple of times a year
we went on safari or on trips to Lake Naivasha where you could see thousands of pink flamingos fanning out in every direction.
It was in Africa where I learned how to ride horses and began a life-long love affair with these beautiful animals. I had a little mare named Gypsy
and together we rode out in the bush as well as winning a number of
competitions. In the summer, I went to a camp in Mombasa where I spent idyllic days collecting shells, skirting centipedes, playing in tide pools, and eating mangos.
It was a sensual life … where everything and anything seemed possible. Big, bold, adventurous, and free.
I am absolutely certain that these years in Africa formed me and had a huge impact on my decision to become a painter .
Many years later, on a summer break from college , I found myself at a retrospective of Monet’s late water lily paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan… The moment was pivotal for me. I was absolutely mesmerized by this work. I found myself in front of the vast expanses of color, the abstract forms swirling and unfolding in front of me. These paintings were an invitation to play and dance and explore on a vast scale, just as I had done so many years earlier on the continent of Africa. It was during this show that I decided I wanted to start painting myself. And that is exactly what I did. I went back to school (Yale University) and signed up for drawing, painting, and sculpture and have never looked back.
I have always loved working on a large scale, where I can feel my whole body moving across a canvas. There is a sense of adventure when I begin and move through a painting. I am at heart an expressionist painter. I never know at the beginning where I am going to end up. I am a bit like an explorer searching for my images, experimenting with new materials, building up the surface, finding my way one step at a time. There is often a narrative element in my work and a sense of drama. I love the freedom to invent stories and create images and put colors together in new ways.
As a painter, I get to feel again and again the sense of expansiveness, spontaneity and endless possibilities that I knew as a child on the Serengetti plains under the large African sky.